Softball eyes SUNYAC postseason berth

Oswego State’s softball team is on the doorstep of taking another major step forward this season after falling one game short of qualifying for the SUNYAC playoffs in 2016.

Last year’s team, the first under a full-time head coach, with Abby Martin running the show, improved its win total from five to 14. This year, Martin is not only seeking the program’s first winning season since 1998, but believes the team has the capability to win 20 to 25 games.

“Our expectation is that we will qualify and win the SUNYACs,” Martin said.

Martin expects SUNY Cortland to be another top contender in the SUNYAC, with Buffalo State and SUNY Plattsburgh being other tough matchups.

“Everybody is really competitive and I’m expecting the same to happen this year,” Martin said. “We just have to beat out four teams. Once we get into the tournament, anything can happen and I do think we have a good enough team to win it this year, especially with our pitching staff.”

Martin is looking forward to seeing the contributions of freshmen pitchers Jessica Roe and Rebecca Vilchez and believes they will lead their pitching staff to several wins this year. She is also looking forward to watching improvement from the senior class, including Melissa Mulvaney, who is preparing for her fourth and final season with the Lakers. Mulvaney has consistently been one of the Lakers most productive players.

“Taking on the veteran leadership position has been a tough change, but I think that we are going to do well,” Mulaney said.

Formal softball practices and scrimmages began in the fall for Martin’s team. During the winter, the team continued practicing together without Martin to build chemistry and hone their game. Practices with coach began again in late January and have continued on a consistent basis.

The team opens the season in Florida on Sunday and will play 10 games over the course of the week. Last year, the team got off to a 4-4 start in the Sunshine State. This year, Martin believes that all the weeks of practicing have paid off and expects the team to win at least six of its first 10 games.

“We’re super excited,” Martin said. “It’s been a long time coming, but we were lucky enough to get some really good weather last week which has allowed us to practice outside, which should prepare us for playing in Florida.”

Erin Sweeney, now a sophomore, was a major reason the team improved so significantly in 2016. Her eight doubles were tied for the team lead and ten extra base hits were good for second on the team. She was also second on the team in hits and sported a .348 batting average. Though she is looking to improve her numbers from her freshman year, she said that team success is her priority.

“Our expectations this year is to make the SUNYAC tournament and hopefully we can take the win,” Sweeney said.

Softball is much more than just a sport for the Lakers, it is a family. The girls spend so much time practicing with each other that bonds are formed, Mulvaney said. It is not the game that she will miss most about graduating, she said, but the friendships, fun and things she learned throughout the ride.

“I’ll miss the qualities it gave me as a person: Leadership, determination,” Mulvaney said. “These are qualities that will help me out in the real world.”

Though this is only Martin’s second year coaching the team, she has developed close relationships with each of the girls that helps her out during practices and at games.

  “I love the girls as human beings,” Martin said. “Everyone has a pretty good relationship and we’re a pretty close group. We work hard but we also have our fair share of fun and laugh a lot. I think that’s important because we have to enjoy what we are doing to be successful.”

Softball will begin the season Sunday in Clermont, Florida, against New England College, who already has eight games under its belt.